It is my pleasure to join you today as the World Bank Group and LIRNEasia co-host the Sri Lanka launch of the new World Development Report 2016, on the theme of Digital Dividends.
Globally, we are in the middle of the greatest information and communications revolution in human history. We can see early evidence of change all around us. Even among the poorest 20 percent of households almost 7 out of 10 have access to a mobile phone. This is more than those having access to clean water, improved toilets or electricity in their homes. In addition, more than 40 percent of the world’s population now has access to the internet. This rapid technological change has brought many benefits to the poor and the disadvantage. But it’s not a completely rosy picture.
The World Bank’s World Development Report 2016 Digital Dividends documents many examples where the internet, mobile phones, and related technologies have promoted inclusion, efficiency and innovation. In many instances, this has allowed businesses to get more productive, people to find new opportunities, and governments to improve their operations. The payoff: faster growth, more jobs, and better services—what the Report refers to as digital dividends.
The Report also finds that many people around the world are yet to see the benefits of the digital revolution due to a growing digital divide. Digital adoption by firms in developing countries has been slow. Automation even of mid-level jobs is disrupting labor markets. And e-government initiatives have a checkered track record. The claims by many advocates of digital technology that the benefits of the digital revolution will automatically trickle down to everyone and everywhere have not been validated.
The report underscores that technologies, by themselves, will not solve basic development problems that have persisted for decades. What is needed is a broader digital development agenda that promotes connectivity, while simultaneously supporting “analog complements”, which include reforms in the business environment, skills development, and good governance.
The World Bank’s recent diagnostic exercise, poverty assessment and the Country Partnership Framework (2017-2020) outline that creation of jobs has played a key role in reduction of poverty in Sri Lanka over the last decade. As a contributor to jobs in Sri Lanka, the ICT sector generates less than 2% of employment, a figure that has potential to improve and support the government’s vision of creating 1 million jobs.
ICT is also a critical contributor to the addressing the governance agenda that the government is putting emphasis on. More so, because Sri Lanka has committed to be a part of the Open Government Partnership.
I would like to end by thanking LIRNEasia for organizing this extremely timely event, and for putting emphasis on the importance of ICT, innovation and jobs. I wish you all an excellent discussion. Thank you.